Updated: Mar 24
Strategies for Moving Forward into the Next Normal
Some 25 years ago - August 11, 1994 to be precise - a kid in New Hampshire sold a copy of Sting’s CD “ Ten Summoner’s Tales”. Sold through his website, this was the first fully encrypted credit card sale in the history of the interwebs. Since then, things have changed a little.
Last year was the year of dread - the year that has earned itself the reputation of thee worst year in modern history. Satan’s soul-mate, if you’re in the know. But in the ick of 2020, from its humble beginnings, eCommerce jumped a whopping 44% in the US YoY. Yes, in good ole ‘Murica, internet shoppers spent $861.12 billion as the pandemic forced them to the web for necessities - some of them spending their money online for the first time ever. Odds are that some of those new-found habits are going to stick, at least to some degree. Sure, as stores reopen and some of the old normal rears its familiar head, some people will return to analog shopping. But some of those long-time-listener, first-time-caller types have already been bitten by the convenience bug. They’ll be back… Online sales are in no jeopardy of suffering a loss. While no one expects another banner year in 2021, analysts are expecting growth. Especially as stores and eCommerce specialists embrace the change and work toward being a contender in their individual vertical. Double digit growth - even in a year like this - is expected. So, what’s an entrepreneur to do? Glad you asked. Let’s take a look at some strategies for riding this wave into the next three years.
There is more power in getting a simple referral that almost any other form of marketing we’ll talk about. When competition is fierce, and everyone is abiding by MAP, what’s to set one reseller apart from the rest? A customer so satisfied that they’ll take the time to refer your services. That is powerful. And really, incentivizing a referral is marketing gold.
Ask for the review. Ask for the “like.” Get some insta love. But offer a rewards program for your loyal clientele - and see how they’ll respond in kind with a few kind words It’s the gift that keeps on giving. It’s general reciprocity in action - and it’s the next best thing to meeting someone in person.
Don’t be afraid to ask for a review - especially when you’ve gone the extra mile to make a customer happy.
There are lots of tools out there, but they can certainly be pricey. The right strategy can go a long way.
Elevate Your Brand Strategy
Similarly, your brand is your reputation, your voice, and your values all wrapped up into one logo, or font set. Brands, as they say, are the landscape of our age. “Turn right at the golden arches, and then left when you see the giant swoosh.” Kids learn how to read brand marketing before they learn to read words or recite letters.
But before your logo has such iconic stature, you have to understand both what your brand stands for, and what your customers (and potential customers) see it in. This may sound obvious, or easy. But it takes some planning to make sure what you’d like to present is what is actually being perceived. And so we have the modern use of slogans or tag-lines. Consider some well known slogans:
Just Do It
You Deserve a Break Today
The Breakfast of Champions
Melts In Your Mouth, Not In Your Hands
Can You Hear Me Now
I’m Loving It
Some of these tell you what sets them apart. Some appeal to your emotions. Some to your tummy. Regardless, we are aiming for familiar, because familiar is trustworthy, and trustworthy wins every time. You want your brand to be clear, speak volumes and become instantly recognizable and familiar. Easy, right?
Consider Apple’s “Think Different” slogan. Simple, right? The story of how it came to be is fascinating, and - cutting to the chase - the work of a marketing agency who worked on a whole slew of other campaign ideas before this one settled with one of the directors. And then he bet the farm on one simple idea… You may remember that IBM had just released their “Think IBM” campaign in the late 90’s? Well, “Think Different” was a response - but also timeless and iconic. Familiar with emotional appeal. Beautiful.
So, don’t run rough shod over your branding. It can make or break a good marketing campaign, and when done right, can earn the trust of would-be clients.
A dazzling website, a Google My Business page and showing up at the right social media platforms are all par for the course in 2021. But what if social media isn’t your thing? What if your dazzling website is 7 years old and hasn’t had a facelift in about that long? What if you asked yourself, “what the heck is Google My Business”?”
Well, let’s talk. People might not tell you the truth, because they’re nice. But you need some tough love. If you’re going to compete in 2021, you need to open your arms to the tools of the new age, buy a smart phone, or hire someone who will.
I know, I know - I have blind spots, too. You might look at your site and think, “it’s great. It’s got a slider, and my phone number on it…” Noted. You might also love your shag carpet, but it might be time to upgrade.
If your social media strategy consists of posting memes and an occasional reminder that you are still alive, you’re only doing it a little right. There is so much more to it than this. Including much of what we talked about. What a brilliant place to but your brand into practice. What an incredible source to get in front of new potential clients. What a way to grow mailing lists, spread influence, show ‘em who you are!
“Nearly 30 percent of companies have dedicated their budget to digital marketing even before COVID-19 happened. According to the same survey by Gartner, companies have directed 80 percent of their multichannel budgets to digital advertising.”
Digital advertising is not new. It’s no joke. If you want to compete, you’re going to have to consider how to up your game. But like anything else mentioned thus far in this read, you need a strategy, and some know-how, or advertising is an endless hole into which you can pitch your budget. Used properly, you’ll see conversion, customers, and more cash. Play smart, win big.
You might be wondering if we’re playing Buzz Word Bingo here… But closely on the strangely powerful coattails of social media comes the word of social influencers. Those folk who have learned to become millionaires and beyond by simply baring their souls on YouTube, often promoting product or subtly weaving a promotion before a watching and thirsty crowd of - you guessed it… followers. These people have become Influencers because they have a huge following. Maybe they’re a local legend, or an up-and-coming YouTube legend. Either way, they have the ability to take your product, channel, store, or whatever you’re hawking to the next level. So, if you’re a music store, you might have a bonafide celebrity that’s a regular - someone who might be up for doing a short interview on your vodcast to tell the kids what brand of strings he uses and why, and to give some added value by telling the world why he loves your business. If you’re a makeup manufacturer, you’re gonna need an influencer if you’re going to move the needle. If you sell fishing poles, well, there’s an influencer for that. If you’re savvy at tech and sales, you might be able to pull it off on your own… that is, if you have time to build a devoted audience, a personality that wins folk over, and enough thick skin to let the haters blow by. You may not like it, but influencers are a huge part of the roadmap today. Is there an internet champion for your niche? It may be time to brainstorm - you guessed it - a strategy.
A Holistic Approach to SEO
Here’s where the rubber meets the road. The glue that holds your tactics together. The Ting in your marketing… If you are approaching SEO, or Social Media Marketing, or your Brand Strategy or any other marketing department in silos, without having an overarching story that speaks for the whole of your company to the ideal customer audience, you’re doing it wrong.
See, to do this right, it’s going to take big thinking. Small ideas always lead to little profits. Playing small does not suit the huge heart you’ve displayed in taking the risk of entrepreneurship. You’re here. Now let’s get after it!
If we want to win, it’s going to take a holistic approach to SEO. Search Engines have grown tired of the trickery. They won’t be gamed, they don’t like being played. They’ve grown edgy. And they’re on to your awkwardly worded copy that repeats keywords like a broken Xerox machine… Additionally, they’re not just looking for keyword relevance, but quality and intent. That’s right - if you perform a search for “how to play Pink Floyd’s Money” you’ll get a distinguishably different result than if you just search “Pink Floyd Money.” This may be an obvious example, but in theory, the search AI is asking “what is the goal of this search?” And then offering world class results based on if it thinks you want information, transaction, navigation or commercial investigation. How you optimize for search really depends on your goals, and the goals of your audience.
So, to meet our audience in the world of intelligent search engines, we need to think big. We need all roads to point north. We need a strategy that includes all of our hacks and all of our marketing endeavors. We need to flood the places where people are - social media, market places, influencers - wherever - with the goal of mindshare, branding, and, if you will, domination. SEO is not just a few changes in wording on your webpage, title tags and meta data. In todays world, optimizing for search means incorporating all your messaging, branding and budget to one common goal - building enough trust to win the customer. And that leads to a relationship that keeps them coming back.
Without a doubt, the stakes have never been higher. More online shoppers that at any point in history. More and more competition all the time. Smarter search engines, tweaking algorithm changes every day. And growth hackers learning the trends, tactics and strategies so that you can focus on the hard work of running a business.
Let’s finish this 1st quarter strong! 2021 is still fresh, off to a bumpy start, but full of promise. Growth is not an option, we’ve got history to make. Every challenge is an opportunity, and don’t forget your WHY. But most of all, don’t forget to take time to strategize. Nothing happens without a proper plan!